Scott Ford

Born in Denver

Scott Ford 2 months, 3 weeks ago on Our view: Diamonds and emerald

Hi Scott – You are spot on! We are not a “resort (tourism) economy” and have not been for several years. Speaking metaphorically we do, however, live in the "house" that tourism built and it is a very nice house.

If we focus primarily on being a great place to live – great places to live are almost always great places to visit. It is highly likely that Steamboat is as valuable to Triple Crown Sport's product offering as Triple Crown is valuable to Steamboat.

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Scott Ford 3 months ago on Community members: In support of URA, TIF

Hi Collin – Thanks so much for your posting. Good to hear from you.

If downtown is compared on the basis of the following categories: Misc. Retail, Sporting Goods and Restaurants, the downtown area accounts for about 20% of taxable sales city wide for these categories. However, this 20% share is primarily driven by restaurant sales. Downtown Restaurants account for over 50% of ALL restaurant sales in Steamboat Springs. In addition, the local population accounts for about 60% of these downtown restaurant sales.

Is downtown important? Absolutely!! However, downtown is not so broken that it should in any way be considered “blighted” and that is where the “rub” is. The blight designation is nothing more than a step in a process necessary to create an Urban Renewal Authority (URA) district and use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a way to re-direct funds generated from sales and property taxes to improving downtown infrastructure.

Not to be misunderstood I believe some infrastructure improvements downtown are necessary and long overdue. Improving sidewalks and providing public restrooms is something that needs to occur. The $10.3 million project list could currently being discussed could quickly be narrowed down to about $3.5 to $4 million if Council wanted to. This would be nothing more than a “nifty” but not necessary discussion. At $4 million this could be reasonably folded into the City’s existing six year Capital Improvement Plan. It would mean that projects downtown would compete with the host of projects the city is planning. I am OK with this because that is what you should expect City Council to do - evaluate and prioritize.

My frustration in this whole URA/TIF discussion has been presented over and over again as URA/TIF or nothing. The URA/TIF is the only way things can be paid for downtown. That is baloney. The more I learn about TIFs as a financing tool they are a bag of snakes and someone gets bitten.

So where does that leave us? I know I am going to keep pushing for options not only in the scope of the planned projects, the associated cost but also in viable ways to pay for what public improvements downtown are needed and not necessarily “nifty”.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow members.)

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Scott Ford 4 months, 1 week ago on Our view: Iron Horse pulling its weight?

The key question I am wrestling with is whether or not workforce housing and specifically for seasonal employees is a “business” the City of Steamboat Springs should be actively involved in. Whose problem is this to solve?

When it comes to seasonal workforce housing I do not think this is the responsibility of Steamboat’s taxpayers. To be blunt – employers who are highly dependent upon a seasonal workforce will figure this out or they won’t.

It does not cause me heartburn to reach agreements such as City Council did last Tuesday night with the Alpiner whereas a temporary special use arrangement was reached with the owners’ of that property subject specific requirements.

The Iron Horse is different because it is a City owned asset. I am comfortable with having the marketplace sort out what the highest and best use of this property is. Essentially whoever wants to pay the most has a vested interest in its highest and best use. That highest and best use may or may not include “workforce” housing. I am OK with that.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow members.)

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Scott Ford 4 months, 2 weeks ago on Building a friendlier downtown: Steamboat Springs City Council weighs urban renewal plan

Good Morning Jon – Your care for this community has always been evident. As you well know being on City Council is not for the faint of heart. In many ways you are one of my role models as I now serve on City Council. Your measured and thoughtful approach is one that I admire highly.

One of the frustrations I have had in the discussion about the Downtown District of the URA using a TIF is that the discussions about the physical infrastructure improvements have not been separated from the funding mechanism.

I think you and I would agree that physical infrastructure improvements are needed downtown. The scope of the infrastructure improvements is debatable. I think you and I would also agree how those items get paid for is another matter for debate. A TIF is just one way of paying for them. It is not the only way.

So here is a thought – would you be willing to join me in a “pro/con” series of editorials on this topic? “Postings” such as this reach a rather limited group.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow City Council members.

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Scott Ford 4 months, 2 weeks ago on Building a friendlier downtown: Steamboat Springs City Council weighs urban renewal plan

Hi Neal –

Simply put, the City Charter adopted in the early 70’s gives City Council total control over capital expenditures. Citizens do not get to vote on capital projects unless the project is being funded through a methods subject to TABOR restrictions.

I suppose a citizen’s initiative could amend the existing City Charter which would limit Council’s ability to expend funds on a capital project over some pre-determined amount. At the core of this question does the citizenry trust City Council? If not, every two years there is an opportunity to elect four new members to City Council. This is why it matters who is elected to City Council.

In the interim if one is opposed to a project make sure individual Council members are aware of their reasons. Complaining about City Council at the coffee shop or at the Post Office may be cathartic but not very effective. Watching City Council meetings “live” on TV or replay – maybe informative but not as effective as coming to City Council meetings. What is more impactful is calling council members, writing editorials and speaking during Public Comment. I recognize that actively engaging in the civil discourse can be time consuming, frustrating and often fruitless. (Been there done that!) However, if one is passionate about an issue there is no need to be shy. (Let’s not fool ourselves – posting on articles likely has more entertainment value than civic value.)

City Council can refer almost anything to the ballot. However, Council does not often do this. The last time I recall that City Council referred something to the ballot was in 2007(?) when they asked the voters to approve an increase in Council’s pay.

It would be possible for City Council to refer to the voters a decision to limit Council’s ability to form URA districts and used Tax Increment Financing. Possible? YES. I could make this motion. I think that there would be a 50/50 chance it would die for the lack of a second – and if seconded fail 6/1 or at best 5/2. What’s the point? A grassroots citizen’s petition initiative would be more effective and send a much clearer message and/or make this a campaign issue in the upcoming November election.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 4 months, 2 weeks ago on Building a friendlier downtown: Steamboat Springs City Council weighs urban renewal plan

3 – One of the key underlying reasons this specific URA with a TIF is being discussed is that it “ties the hands” of future City Councils when it comes to the ongoing funding of infrastructure projects within the downtown district. The reason for this is pretty simple – it is a trust issue. The Administrative arm of City Government does not trust the elected representative arm of City Government to “stay the course” regardless of how “cool” the visionary plans for downtown are.

The problem is that future City Councils could change their mind from year to year as well as from Council to Council. How to make sure City Councils don’t change their minds? Lock up the funds well into the future for this City Council and for many years to follow through the creation of a downtown URA district. I am not going to knowingly tie the hands of this council or future councils with such an agreement that goes well into the future which is unknown and I am sure will have its own share of problems. This would be foolish. It is bad policy to do and is an example of the poorest form of leadership.

4 – Without question downtown has infrastructure needs that are the City’s responsibility. I know that and I am willing to do something about them. What needs to be done and how soon it needs to be done should be a topic for City Council deliberation. Those needs and priorities can then be folded into the well-established Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) process. Since money is finite, this means there are going to be tradeoffs based on priorities. For example, perhaps a traffic circle on Central Park Drive would get built later rather than sooner in exchange for public restrooms downtown. Creating a special Downtown District with its own independent list of infrastructure projects subverts the CIP process. There is no good reason to do this.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 4 months, 2 weeks ago on Building a friendlier downtown: Steamboat Springs City Council weighs urban renewal plan

Over the past 12 months I have learned a lot about URAs and Tax Increment Financing. I still have a lot to learn. However, I am convinced that the one being discussed for downtown Steamboat Springs is not such a great idea.

1 - Tax Increment Financing (TIF) that involve a redirection of property taxes harms the local school district and all other taxing entities that depend on a portion of their revenue from property taxes. All this talk about “hold harmless agreements” and state backfill is just so much baloney. The school district can demonstrate the on-going “harm” that has occurred as a result of the Mountain URA.

What is mind boggling is that some members of City Council, City staff and downtown property owners are so presumptuous to act as if they know the complexities of the school finance formula better than the school district themselves. As a City Council we need to listen carefully to the school district board members and afford them the respect due to another elected body in our town.

What I want to avoid is a discussion that begins to debate the degree of “harm” that is forced on the schools and all other property tax dependent entities. Give me a break – Harm is Harm! Just because the City of Steamboat Springs can establish a URA district and impose a TIF without any permission from the voters or other taxing entities dependent on property taxes, does not mean it should.

2 – As URAs go this one is a bit goofy. In the URAs I have reviewed they are usually tied to an agreement that a private developer will commence with a well-defined project if the URA district is form and a TIF imposed. The agreement with the developer(s) is most importantly enforceable. If the developer does not do their part there are significant consequences. There is no such agreement being discussed with this downtown URA. All the “good things” that some believe will result are based on faith alone. In addition, the investment in the “faith” seems rather one-sided which makes this downtown URA unique from the typical URA.

All this talk about “public/private partnership” is essentially again so much baloney. As evidence of this the business owners in the downtown district have failed twice in an attempt to pass funding for a Business Improvement District.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 4 months, 2 weeks ago on Our view: More bang for URA’s bucks

Good Morning John –

Simply put, the City Charter adopted in the early 70’s gives City Council total control over capital expenditures. Citizens do not get to vote on capital projects unless the project is being funded through a methods subject to TABOR.

I suppose a citizen’s initiative could amend the existing City Charter which would limit Council’s ability to expend funds on a capital project over some pre-determined amount. At the core of this question does the citizenry trust City Council? If not, every two years there is an opportunity to elect four new members to City Council.

In the interim if one is opposed to a project make sure individual Council members are aware of their reasons. Complaining about City Council at the coffee shop or at the Post Office may be cathartic but not very effective. Watching City Council meetings “live” on TV or replay – maybe informative but not as effective as coming to City Council meetings. What is more impactful is calling council members, writing editorials and speaking during Public Comment. I recognize that actively engaging in the civil discourse can be time consuming, frustrating and often fruitless. (Been there done that!) However, if one is passionate about an issue there is no need to be shy. (Let’s not fool ourselves – posting on articles likely has more entertainment value than civic value.)

City Council can refer almost anything to the ballot. However, Council does not often do this. The last time I recall that City Council referred something to the ballot was in 2007(?) when they asked the voters to approve a raise in Council’s pay.

It would be possible for City Council to refer to the voters a decision to limit Council’s ability to form URA districts and used Tax Increment Financing. Possible? YES. I could make this motion. I think that there would be a 50/50 chance it would die for the lack of a second – and if seconded fail 6/1 or at best 5/2. What’s the point? A grassroots citizen’s petition initiative would be more effective and send a much clearer message and/or make this a campaign issue in the upcoming November election.

I would much rather used Council’s authority to refer items to the ballot on issues where citizens are precluded from doing so. An example, Council could refer to the ballot the question whether or not to remove city sales tax on groceries. A citizen’s initiative could not do this because it involves the levy of taxes. This could be yet another important campaign issue. I think we could hopefully be more successful than the City of Loveland’s City Council was.

http://lovelandpolitics.com/ashmarket.html

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)

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Scott Ford 4 months, 2 weeks ago on City sees strong interest in police station committee

Good Morning Damian –

I understand your opinion “that council will outsource this important decision, so inevitable blame of some sort can be deflected.” The responsibility for this decision rest entirely on the shoulders of City Council. Council will own this decision for better or worse.

I do not think we are stuck in Paralysis by analysis. Simply put, there has been a lack of analysis. This is because throughout this process the temptation has been to quickly jump to a single “solution” before the problem we are trying to address has been defined and what “success” would look like.

Essentially the only “solution” presented has been build a new police station that is 15,000 sq. /ft. – out of downtown that will cost about $10 million that will be primarily paid for out of existing capital reserves. The only analysis that that been done has been to support this solution. This has been the solution presented by staff. To be clear I do not fault staff on presenting this solution, however, it is only “A” solution and not “THE” only solution.

I am a proponent of exercising great care as we move forward with this idea. One of the major reasons for this is that regardless of the decision City Council eventually makes – the citizens may not have the ability to “unwind” the decision via the referendum process no matter how “nutty” it may be. Since it is a capital expenditure that may not use “bonding”, City Council’s decision is final. It is final unless City Council wishes to refer the decision to the ballot. Thus far there is no appetite on the part of a majority of the current City Council to do this.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by other council members.)

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Scott Ford 4 months, 2 weeks ago on City sees strong interest in police station committee

Hi Fred – You have a good point and I understand it.

From my perspective the discussion about the Police Station started at the end rather than at the beginning. By end I mean that – City Council was informed in the summer of 2012 that there was a buyer for the building, at a specific price. In addition, that buyer wanted to take possession of the building within 18 months. Prior to the announcement that the Public Safety Building was being sold – the Police Station was not even on the City’s 6 year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The pending sale of the building rocketed it to the top of the CIP list as the most important and expensive thing the local tax payers needed to do and pay for.

Faced with the reality that essentially the police department would be homeless in 18 months – that started a process that started at the end rather than the beginning. Simply put, it has been back-ass-wards. With multiple miss steps – proposal to house the police department in the Iron Horse Inn, build a 18,000 sq./ft. facility in Rita Valentine Park, moving the police before there was a plan for the Fire Equipment, failure to disclose possible conflict of interest, etc., etc.

Recognizing what has been proposed would be this City’s largest capital expenditure in its 115 year history. I think we are now starting where we should have started 3 years ago. Yes there is a need, however, the due diligence on options available to meet the need may result in something that has not been thought of previously and desire vs. needs will have been carefully sorted out and communicated to the tax payers.

Without question it would have been far easier to just write a taxpayer check for $10 million ($8 million City + $2 million in grant funds OPM). I recognize that we may wind up at this exact point. I am OK with that provided we have explored and evaluated all the options that could result in savings. I am confident that through this process a facility that meets our community’s needs for many years ahead will emerge.

(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)

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